The newly-installed murals in downtown Gallatin were made possible by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission.
The Commission believes that creativity is a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and invention. Many organizations, businesses and local governments collaborate to reinvest in and revitalize their communities, and the arts often represent a way to cultivate and capitalize upon creativity with lasting economic benefits.
In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, nonprofit and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around arts and cultural activities or assets. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business visibility and public safety, and brings diverse people together to build shared understanding of culture and community.
At the start of the 20th century few small towns in America had a transportation infrastructure equal to what could be found in Gallatin. With a passenger train service from the Louisville & Nashville Rail Road that opened in 1858 residents were able to board at Depot Square and travel anywhere in the United States. Locally, shorter trips could be taken on the Nashville Light & Railway's Nashville-Gallatin Interurban RR (trolley) from Main Street and Water Street all the way to downtown Nashville. Gallatin merchants, farmers and manufactures benefited greatly from these railroads, shipping and receiving goods daily on the freight services offered by each company. These transport options were vital to Gallatin’s growth and development during the 19th and 20th centuries.
This mural depicts both railroad companies and how they came together in Gallatin. The mural location on College Street just off the Gallatin Square is between the L&N Depot and the NL&R Trolley Station.
The left side of the mural is the Louisville & Nashville RR with a large portrait of longtime railroader Milton Hannibul Smith, who in 1884 took over as president of the company. Regarded as a “representative of the people,” Smith helped reestablish the L&N as a transportation leader through his managerial insight and dogged determination.
Smith's presidency lasted from 1884 to 1886 and again from 1891 until his death on February 22, 1921. During his tenure, L&N track mileage expanded more than 60 percent, mostly through the development of eastern and western Kentucky as well as central and eastern Tennessee, rather than through major acquisitions. Tennessee expansions included the acquisition of the Gallatin and Scottsville Railway.
To the left of Smith's portrait is the Gallatin L&N Depot tower and below it is a L&N steam engine. At the very bottom is the original L&N logo and "Gallatin TN Mile 159" that was sourced from the original blue prints of the Gallatin Depot Station.
The right half the mural focuses on the Nashville Light and Railway Company's trolley system in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, which included service to Gallatin. The NL&R ran a Nashville-Gallatin Interurban Railway called "The Bluegrass Line," operated from 1912-1932. The passenger cars were Trollies #201-#204 and the one freight car was #101.
The trolley station was right off the Gallatin Square on Main Street near the corner of Water Street. The portrait is of TJ Cato conductor of Trolley #201. On Cato's shoulder is the logo for Nashville Light and Railway Company, a picture of Bluegrass Line Trolley #201 and a blueprint design of the Trolley. In the very middle of the mural design is a young boy holding the ceremonial "Last Spike" during the RR completion celebration.
The maroon red in the color is taken from the L&N logo. The grey scale on the portraits and other images are meant to invoke a feeling of history.
This mural is about the 1970 basketball game played between Gallatin High School and Union High School. The very next year Union High would be closed and the US Federal Government would force the two Gallatin schools to merge into one as part of the 1969 Civil Rights Law. This was the only game the two cross-town schools ever played against each other in any sport. The game was in Gallatin but part of a tournament in Clarksville, Tennessee.
The teams’ two captains Eddie Sherlin (Gallatin) and Bill Ligon had been friends since early childhood. For some Gallatin residents the game symbolized long racial struggles held for generations. For many, however, the game symbolized a new way forward. This was especially true with the two friends who played against each other that night. After the game they embraced on court. Both players went on to receive all tournament awards.
The mural design features these two childhood friends and the colors and icons related to each high school. The two sides are arranged in a way that is influenced by late 1960s baseball card design. In this way, more specific information on the subject can be introduced in a subtle way.
The mascot icons were sourced from actual school memorabilia, and so they are very specific to the Gallatin community. The Green Bay Packers 'G" was not used for the high school until the late 70s, early 80s. Back in the 60s, the school looked more to Tulane University for its mascot cues. The clipper-style boat was the image of choice and was on the front of the GHS yearbook for all the 1960s and into the 70s.
This arrangement also allows for photos with these individual elements separate from the whole (ie. a current Gallatin High School senior can pose on the left side of mural that has more focus on GHS colors and icons). This must be done since a photo with a person in front of the entire mural will dwarf the person. But when a person does stand in front of the entire mural, the impressiveness of the large portraits is shown as well as the entire story of the 1970 game.